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Katie's Column

Katie's Column - 

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Category : General Photography
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Katie TeesdaleIntroduction first!
As the title suggests, my name is Katie and I am not a journalist or an experienced photographer, so what am I doing writing a column? I have an interest in digital photography and, like many users, want to be able to take decent photos, to manipulate and print them as I wish and to email my creations to friends and family.

From discussion with friends who own digital cameras there are rather worrying trends appearing - from the initial excitement at purchase, then into a quick descent of frustration at not understanding the instruction books, terminology and general 'techie nature' of the digital camera. Through this column I aim to make things simple. Using simple language to help beginners continue using their digital cameras, rather than shoving them to the back of a cupboard and resorting back to using APS and 35mm cameras, rendering their costly digital purchase null and void.

So it goes without saying that this column is aimed at the COMPLETE novice to digital cameras and digital photography. You won't find techno speak. I don't know any! I won't assume any level of knowledge either - the rest of ePHOTOzine covers all aspects of photography, so if you're more advanced you'll find just about everything you need to know on the site already.

This first instalment is a brief introduction into digital photography, familiarisation of terminology and getting started. Read this if you've just bought or are about to buy your first digital camera. The second part gives some tips on common mistakes, and advice to prevent them.

Advantages
The main advantages of going digital is that you can forget about film - you don't have one, instead a mini device about the thickness of a credit card and just bigger than a postage stamp is used. It's called a memory card and is reusable.

You can see the result of your handy work straight away on a small monitor and delete them just as quick. Great if your picture looks like something that should get the Turner Prize!

Images can be transferred on to a computer (known as uploading) where you can email to friends and family.

Various types of software is available for image manipulation.

Drawbacks?
Digital can be expensive at first but should be seen as an investment.

Batteries drain quickly so you are constantly charging and re-charging sets. Many a time I've been out with Pete to hear the echo of 'bugger, the batteries have died!' It's very frustrating.

Always have a spare charged set with you.

Terminology
There is a glossary already on ePHOTOzine, but I have tried to put it in my language so it's not direct from a photographer.

Pixels (sometimes see PPI-Pixels per inch)
Pixels record the resolution of the picture. Think of an area covered in 10 squares; the image would clearly be broken up so you would see lines etc. Now think of the same area covered in thousands of tiny squares, the image would be clearer, definition of colour would be brighter and the lines would be harder to see. As a general rule the larger the number of pixels the better quality resolution to the image.

A mega pixel is over one million pixels

CCD
This is where the picture you've taken is recorded and made into a digital image which is then stored in memory. Think of it as the digital equivalent of film.

Resolution
Total number of pixels in the photo e.g. One million or 350,000. The Fuji 2600 camera I am using is 2.0 mega pixels (2 million pixels). See Pixels

Memory card/SmartMedia/Compact Flash/Memory Stick
This is a removable memory card. The camera uses this to store images, which replaces film. Several sizes are available from 2Mb up to 1Gb depending on the make and type.

LCD Monitor
The TV screen of the camera. Allows you to see what you've taken and what you are taking at the time. Beware; using this all the time drains the batteries like you wouldn't believe.

Auto focus
(AF) automatically focuses the camera on a subject to make the photo look sharp

Macro
Focusing mode on many cameras and lenses that allows close-up pictures to be taken with a range of 30cms or less.

Computer Connection
USB (universal serial Bus)

Connector that allows digital camera, printers or scanners to be connected and unconnected to a computer without turning it off.

Batteries
There are several types of battery used in digital cameras. They are listed here as: 1 Alkaline; 2 Lithium-ion; 3 NiMH rechargeable; 4 Nicad rechargeable. Lithium last longer than normal Alkalines, but they are more expensive and often specific to just one make of camera. Nicads have the cost benefit of being rechargeable, but they tend to give less pictures per charge. The best are NiMH AAs that can be recharged and give more pictures per charge than the others.

Getting started
I would advise you look at the camera's instruction manual even if you think you can fumble your way around it. Also fill in the guarantee card for peace of mind.

digital camera accessories

This is just about everything that came in the Fuji 2600 box:

From bottom left:

CD for Finepix software
USB cable to connect to computer
SmartMedia memory card
Battery charging cable and unit
2 x AA-size Nickel-Metal rechargeable batteries
Camera.

loading batteries It would be a good idea to charge the batteries before you start to play. I tried to get going by using the batteries straight out of the box, but soon found they were not charged and the life faded pretty quickly. The batteries supplied take on average five hours to charge, the light on the charger will go off. It is advisable that you use only fully charged batteries rather than swapping between half charged. Don't use old and new batteries together.

When in doubt check in the manual.

Once the batteries have been charged load them up. It should be clear on the camera which way up they go.

loading memory card Next inserting the SmartCard. To me these are remarkably flimsy, a bit like a smaller version of a floppy disc, so take care when handling it. It should only go in one way, and this is usually indicated on the camera case.

Turn on camera and it should sound and look like there's some action taking place. The first time you turn the camera on it may ask you to set the date and time.

Setting date and time

If you've ever had to set a video recorder you will be fine here, it works on pretty much the same basis.

menus A list of options appear. The menu key may double up as an OK button. Use and follow the instructions on the LCD monitor and use the scroll bars to find correct date and time. Once you've got it set press OK and it won't ask you to repeat the procedure every time you turn it on. Don't be disheartened if you don't get it right first time. You can always turn the camera off and start again.

Click here to see part 2

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